Monday, June 19, 2006

Sequels and Equals

The Washington Post's Stephen Hunter penned an interesting article on June 11th about the summer of the sequels. It's called "Try, Try Again: In This Brand-Conscious World, Sequels Are Great Investments. Every So Often, They're Great Movies Too."

Here's a piece of what he wrote:

And that's why there'll always be sequels. The money is too easy. All you have to do is pick it up. You can distill the charm out of the original, suffocate what was special about it, use its least relevant cast members for peanuts, lowball every production decision, and ride that sucker straight to the bank, laughing all the way.

Whether a sequel outearns its progenitor (the second "Ice Age" did; "Ocean's Twelve" didn't) is not the point: The point is, the retread almost always makes a hell of a lot of money, because there's a huge audience out there that wants a taste of the original it so loved.

Sequels open big. They may die fast, but they rack up the huge numbers that first Friday night before word of mouth, the market's most powerful movie critic, lashes them to nothingness. Not even Roger Ebert can close a sequel on Friday night.

So, pondering this, I guess I was wondering: what sequels do you think out-do their predecessor? Or are, at least, equals, worthy of side-by-side comparison? The obvious, oft-given answers are: Superman: The Movie/Superman II, X-Men/X-2, Alien/Aliens, Mad Max/Road Warrior, The Godfather/Godfather II, and Star Wars/The Empire Strikes Back...but beyond this widely-accepted batch, are there any others we ought to consider?

I guess From Russia with Love and Goldfinger are both superior to Dr. No. And Star Trek II is superior to Star Trek: The Motion Picture (and Star Trek VI is superior to Star Trek V).

What sequels do you absolutely love and cherish? I've written before on the blog about the "rules" of bad sequels. Which ones do you think overcome those rules? Why? What quality makes a sequel an equal? In the age of TV serials with continuing story arcs, is it even relevant for critics to carp about the unoriginality of film sequels anymore? I mean, TV shows have sequels every week, don't they?

Who among the readership here will argue for the sanctity of RoboCop II over RoboCop? Or Conquest of the Planet of the Apes over Planet of the Apes? Or the superiority of Gremlins II over Dante's original? I'm not advocating any of those positions, but I wonder if there's someone out there dying to debate it...


  1. Anonymous3:27 PM

    First off, let me start by saying that I have never considered Star Trek movies to be sequels. Trek was an episodic TV show first so I consider them to be episodes.

    As far as sequels I love, Friday the 13th Part 6: Jason Lives is my favorite of all the Friday films. I have always preferred zombie Jason to human Jason. The kills are awesome and plenty gory too!

    I am also one of the few people who considers Conquest of the Planet of the Apes to be the best Apes film. It was really Roddy's tour de force in the series. I also think the story is so intense and visceral that nothing else in the series even comes close. I also think Escape is the weakest film in the series, not Beneath.

    As for other awesome sequels, here are some that I think are equel to or better than their originals:

    1. Spider-Man 2

    2. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

    3. Wes Craven's New Nightmare

    4. Gamera 3: Incomplete Struggle

    5. The Matrix Revolutions

    I'll post more as I think of them.


  2. Hey Chris,

    Good ideas there. I also think Conquest of the Planet of the Apes is the best Apes sequel; but I'm partial to the original as the best of the lot.

    I'm a big fan of Wes Craven's New Nightmare, another sequel you mention. But I'm not sure it equals the 1984 original in my mind.

    And as far as Matrix sequels, for me it was always Matrix Reloaded that got the job done. I can watch that movie any time.

    Interesting choices!!!

  3. Okay, Muir, it's on.

    I hereby defend Gremlins 2. Damn thing's a laugh riot. The original Gremlins is a schizophrenic mess of a movie, and maybe that's why it's considered a minor classic. 2 was never anything but a comedy, a really goofus comedy. It didn't even try to match the original, it just took off in its own direction. And a damn funny direction it is.

    Of course, I'm the guy who'll defend Ishtar, too.

  4. Hey! All right, all right.

    I like Gremlins 2 a lot. Doesn't one of the Gremlins have Tony Randall's voice? I think that's really funny...

    I could see making an argument for Gremlins 2 as being "equal" to the original, but better? Hmmmm.

    Maybe...if only because there's that incredible scene that parodies the original's infamous "Santa Claus in the chimney" reason-why-I-hate Christmas moment.

    THAT really was brilliant. Also, I get a kick out of Gizmo as Rambo.

  5. i think "gremlins 2" may be the ideal joe dante film. the first was great with all the havoc in a norman rockwell small town setting, but the sequel offers great corporate satire and a setting that lets him run wild with any pop culture reference he wants to. its really great movie playtime, from the william castle movie interruption gimmick to the busby berkley number near the end. hypertextual stuff.